Lower neighborhood quality in adolescence predicts higher mesolimbic sensitivity to reward anticipation in adulthood

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Abstract

Life history theory suggests that adult reward sensitivity should be best explained by childhood, but not current, socioeconomic conditions. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, 83 participants from a larger longitudinal sample completed the monetary incentive delay (MID) task in adulthood (∼25 years old). Parent-reports of neighborhood quality and parental SES were collected when participants were 13 years of age. Current income level was collected concurrently with scanning. Lower adolescent neighborhood quality, but neither lower current income nor parental SES, was associated with heightened sensitivity to the anticipation of monetary gain in putative mesolimbic reward areas. Lower adolescent neighborhood quality was also associated with heightened sensitivity to the anticipation of monetary loss activation in visuo-motor areas. Lower current income was associated with heightened sensitivity to anticipated loss in occipital areas and the operculum. We tested whether externalizing behaviors in childhood or adulthood could better account for neighborhood quality findings, but they did not. Findings suggest that neighborhood ecology in adolescence is associated with greater neural reward sensitivity in adulthood above the influence of parental SES or current income and not mediated through impulsivity and externalizing behaviors.

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Gonzalez, M. Z., Allen, J. P., & Coan, J. A. (2016). Lower neighborhood quality in adolescence predicts higher mesolimbic sensitivity to reward anticipation in adulthood. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 22, 48–57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2016.10.003

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